Thursday, 24 September 2009
Vox Day's reason for being a Christian is, um, interesting (link). He's responding to Luke Muehlhauser's questions (link) from the "Common Sense Atheism" blog.
Vox says:Why am I a Christian? Because I believe in evil. I believe in objective, material, tangible evil that insensibly envelops every single one of us sooner or later. I believe in the fallen nature of Man, and I am aware that there is no shortage of evidence, scientific, testimonial, documentary, and archeological, to demonstrate that no individual is perfect or even perfectible by the moral standards described in the Bible. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of freeing Man from the grip of that evil. God may not be falsifiable, but Christianity definitely is, and it has never been falsified. The only philosophical problem of evil that could ever trouble the rational Christian is its absence; to the extent that evil can be said to exist, it proves not only the validity of Christianity but its necessity as well. The fact that we live in a world of pain, suffering, injustice, and cruelty is not evidence of God's nonexistence or maleficence, it is exactly the worldview that is described in the Bible. In my own experience and observations, I find that worldview to be far more accurate than any other, including the shiny science fiction utopianism of the secular humanists.First of all, the Bible describes an imperfect world because it couldn't very well get away with describing a non-existent perfect world, now could it? Vox's God is just a powerful being (link), and not the classic tri-omni God you might find at the end of an ontological argument. So he, too, has conceded to reality.
Second, I can only assume that Vox is being hyperbolic, since his description of evil (as something other than an idea putting actions in an emotional context) is something that would actually falsify Christianity from my perspective if I followed his chain of reasoning.
Vox continues:I don't concern myself much, if at all, with the conventional extra-Biblical dogma that you describe and in which many Christians believe. I am dubious about the concept of the Trinity as it is usually described, do not await an eschatological Rapture, have no problem admitting that the moral commandments of God are arbitrary, and readily agree that the distinction between the eternally saved from the eternally damned appears to be more than a little unfair from the human perspective. On the other hand, I know that evil exists. I have seen it, I have experienced it, I have committed it, and I have loved it. I also know the transforming power that Jesus Christ can exercise to free an individual from evils both large and small because I have seen it in the lives of others and I have felt it in my own life. Now, ever since St. Augustine wrote his Confessions, it has been customary for Christians to exaggerate their sinful pasts; Augustine was hardly the Caligula that he portrayed himself to be. I find dramatic personal histories to be tiresome in the extreme, so I won't say more except to note that as an agnostic, I enjoyed a sufficient amount of the hedonistic best that the world has to offer across a broad range of interesting and pleasurable experiences, only to learn that none of it was ever enough. It may amuse you to learn that one girl who knew me only before I was a Christian happened to learn about The Irrational Atheist and wrote to me to express her shock: “The fact that you wrote this book proves there is a God.”
Third, I’m not sure why if good and evil are just an arbitrary pattern to Vox that have been randomly assigned by any old superior being, that he is not open to other origins for the same pattern. Then to turn around and call atheists “moral parasites” as though he can prove Jesus owns morality? Please... I don't think moral patterns are written into the fabric of the universe any more than Vox does, but even if we doubt evolution as being entirely plastic, that doesn't make Vox's unfalsifiable God any better an alternative. That makes us agnostic humanists.
If his claim is that the Bible accurately describes his evaluation of the moral world, then that original evaluation can be questioned in and of itself in the event his moral understanding is faulty. Will he allow for that to be consistent? Or will he contradict his own epistemic foundation and lambaste moral criticism of his religion as "having no basis" as Christians habitually counter?
Vox claims that evolution "...has been around for 150 years without producing much in the way of practical utility or reliable information" and appears to ignore that we do have all sorts of evolution-based software and technologies that lift the natural principles from the wild and use them to craft feats of engineering no intelligent designer specifically mandated. Replication, genetic drift, and competition for resources works.
Vox also said of evolution:
Second, the predictive models evolutionary theory produces are reliably incorrect and fall well short of the standard set by the hard sciences. In fact, they seldom even rise to the much lower standard of the social sciences.
It doesn't seem to really matter how "hard" the predictions are when process itself is right there. We could assume it was just as plastic as creationists claim, and it really just wouldn't matter. We don't doubt the weather has been happening for the last few billion years just because we don't trust the weather man (or woman) on the nightly news.
He's going to have to get more into particulars before I can get more into particular responses to his claims that are probably misunderstandings of his. Naturally I think the evidence goes well beyond Vox's claims here, but it is easy enough to point out his hypocrisy even if his assessment was entirely correct.
Fourth, it seems he doesn’t think anyone other than Christians has ever gotten ahead of the curve on triumphing over the evil in their lives. That’s, uh, not a very “polite” or accurate opinion to have of non-Christians, to put it politely. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are self-centered behaviors that do not contribute to long term self-esteem, and general well being. And we have normal desires for self-esteem and well being (that Vox is actually using) to appeal to that have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity to promote moral behaviors.
Fifth, his subjective misapprehension of morality simply means as much to me as does any other subjective misapprehension of morality that propels anyone anywhere on the belief-scape. People more on the "inside" of his personal life aren't in any better a position to make any difference given the rest of the evidence of the world we also have to explain.
I'm curious as to where Luke will go with this. He's not too keen on calling evolution partially responsible for the reliable moral patterns we discern in our experience. I hope he doesn't overly complicate things, but we'll see.